I typically stay out of debates on Facebook because I value my time. But many beautiful friends texted, called and emailed me to show their frustration, support and doubt around the George Floyd controversy and the protest and unrest that has ensued. So I waded. I replied to a comment on a post about a NFL player’s concern about kneeling during the national anthem. The poster was livid that a group of players were “coerced into supporting the ‘other side’ in their desire to kneel and disrespect our country.” I share my reply here.
I’m disheartened that the conversation has come to this.
First, let’s roll back the conversation about “the other side.” There is only one side; it’s either “human race” or “American.” Whichever side we pick, we must still look at the issue–whether kneeling at a football game or being kneeled on–from a unified point of view. Either that, or we fight over the nuances and not the issue.
My father was a Marine; he fought for this country. My brothers are educated black men; both have been profiled and treated negatively by the police. In this country, both realities are true.
We get to love this country and also want it to be better, but growth only comes when we battle with our own instincts to argue. When we come at things from my side, your side, my tribe, your tribe, we regress as a nation, as a people, as a society.
Look at the internally warring nations in this world and compare their quality of life to ours. There is no comparison because our country was built by a lot of tough immigrants who found ways to work out their baggage.
Second, we’re all hurt, disappointed and afraid. No one likes seeing people murdered in the streets and no one benefits from character attacks. It sucks both ways. Let’s acknowledge that we’re in a moment, but remember that we have more in common than we have differences.
This kneeling thing is an albatross. Calling protesters looters is a decoy. It’s a distraction from the core issue, which is that the values that established our country and were then later revised, are not being appreciated. The more we forget first principles, the more we fight over the scraps and the details. The more we fight, the more we forget who we are. And the more we forget who we are, the more dangerous this country becomes for everyone.
Be curious. Ask questions. Be uncomfortable. Debate more. If everyone you’re debating with looks and believes like you, change that. We’re an incredible country. Diversity and unique perspectives is what makes us great, not factions or sides.
Several hundred people responded. In the midst, someone asked me how I would address these issues. The answer is simple but not easy. It’s to address 1) the personal/individual, then the 2) systemic and, then, 3) the cultural. In that order:
- Hold people and individuals accountable for bad behavior.
- Identify system breakdowns in our justice, education, and financial institutions, and flow in training, awareness and light governance.
- Talk openly and without blame about the solution; allow people to voice grievances. Outline a better future. Lead. Reinforce good behavior.
The answer? It lies in leadership. We need strong, bold and integrity-based leaders.